Delle Donne: I was homesick at UConn
A year away from basketball -- and being back home in Delaware -- has apparently recharged Elena Delle Donne's passion for the game.
The former Connecticut recruit, who spent less than 48 hours on UConn's campus last year before leaving for home, giving up her scholarship and transferring to Delaware, will play for the Blue Hens next season, the school announced. She will have freshman eligibility.
"I am extremely excited to be competing in my home state and for Coach [Tina] Martin," Delle Donne said in a statement released by the university. "I really enjoyed playing volleyball this past fall but found myself missing basketball. Basketball has been an important part of my life and I realized that it is my first love and my passion."
Delle Donne, a 6-foot-5 guard, was the 2008 Naismith national high school basketball player of the year and one of the most highly sought girls' prep players in the country.
She said after leaving UConn last year that she had realized she was burned out on basketball and no longer had the passion to compete at the sport's highest level. She spent last year playing volleyball at Delaware, making the Colonial Athletic Association's all-rookie team.
But in an interview Tuesday with the Hartford Courant, Delle Donne said in hindsight she now realizes that she was homesick.
"I guess if I were to sum the whole thing up, if I were to say what it is that I learned during the year, it's that I mistakenly put the blame for my feelings on basketball, when in reality it was homesickness," she said, according to the Courant. "Once I was able to get home and play another sport for a while, once I was able to enjoy things again, I was able to realize that Delaware was where I wanted to be. I love my home and I love the university. I'm thrilled to be here."
Delle Donne also said that Huskies coach Geno Auriemma had tried to convince her that it was homesickness that was bothering her -- and that she realizes now that he was right.
"I told Coach Auriemma last summer that I was leaving basketball because of burnout and he said to me at that point, 'Elena, I guarantee that it's not burnout, that it's all about missing home,'" she said, according to the Courant. "He said a player like myself, who had done so well in the sport and worked so hard, that burnout didn't make sense to him.
"I told him, 'No, you are wrong, Coach, you have no idea how I'm feeling.' But you know what? Now that I look back on it, he was really right; he usually is," she said, according to the report.
At UConn, Auriemma said, "I wish her the best, now and in the future," according to the Hartford Courant.
When read Delle Donne's quote about basketball being her passion again, Auriemma told ESPN's Mark Schwarz: "You'd have to draw your own conclusions."
''Sometimes people get things wrong," he added, referring to Delle Donne's previous comments about being burned out on basketball.
Delle Donne said watching the Huskies storm to a 39-0 season and the national championship last season made her realize she really did miss the game.
"I was thrilled about how well they played and happy that my actions didn't hinder what they eventually accomplished," she said, according to the Courant. "For me, the experience was more a realization that I had been working so hard, since second grade, and [UConn] is where I thought I'd always be. [Watching the Huskies play] I continued to realize how I really missed it."
Delle Donne still wants to eventually play in the WNBA and the Olympics -- where Auriemma is the coach for the 2012 Games in London. "It would incredible if I could play for him; I always wanted to play for him," she said, according to the Courant.
At Delaware, Delle Donne will join a team that went 15-15 last season and returns its entire starting lineup.
"We are thrilled that Elena will be playing basketball at the University of Delaware," Martin said. "Elena is versatile and has the ability to play multiple positions. She will have an immediate impact on our program with the skills, competitiveness and athleticism she brings to the team."